It’s a pity that most Indonesians never know the taste of natural, fresh milk, but Hometown is about to change that.

Redefining Fresh Milk

If you coffee people, you’ll be amazed of how fussy they are for everything in coffee, from the bean’s origin, grind size, water temperature, brewing duration, to the number of particle in water. On milk-based coffee such as cappuccino and café latte, the milk content is higher than the actual coffee. A unique phenomenon occurred last year when suddenly some premium coffee shops  began using the new local milk brand called Hometown. The fact speaks volume for Hometown’s quality.

Of course, it’s not for all coffee shops. Some middle class coffee shops are reluctant to use it mainly for 2 reasons: the price is relatively higher, and shorter shelf-life, only 2 weeks. From the short shelf-life, we believe Hometown is a pasteurized milk, the very definition of fresh milk that’s been long forgotten. We decided to meet Dayu Ariasintawati, Managing Director of Great Giant Livestock to dig deeper into the local dairy market’s situation, definition of fresh milk, unique story of how they penetrate into coffee shops.

Before discuss about Hometown, would you mind explaining a bit about the company?

We are an agriculture group under Gunung Sewu. The company has other businesses from insurance, property, but for the agro sector, we use the name Great Giant Foods (GGF). Under GGF, we also have Great Giant Pineapple (GGP). In Indonesia, we’re not that famous because 99% of our pineapple is exported to over 60 countries, but we are the third largest pineapple producer in the world after Del Monte and Dole. Both companies has farm in separated locations, but for the integrated producer in 1 location, we are the biggest in the world with over 32.000 ha land in Lampung with over 2.000 ton production capacity/day. Aside from GGP, perhaps Indonesia knows us through our cavendish banana, Sunpride.

We always concerned about ecosystem, therefore, when we produce pineapple skin as waste for 250 metric ton, we need to figure out a way to manage it. Finally, we make new line of business called Great Giant Livestock (GGL), a beef based agro company which produce beef under the brand Bonanza. GGF’s cows consume the waste from the pineapple farm, but they also produce organic fertilizer to be consumed by the pineapple farm. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) called it as blue economy.

If green economy is all about environment conservation, blue economy try to get sustainability through using byproduct from a business as input for another business. With many companies, last year we decided to have GGF as our holding group’s name, under it, we have brands such as Sunpride, Bonanza, and Hometown. Our objective is to contribute to the local production because Indonesia is very worrisome when it comes to food.

In what way?

Sustainability, more to the food security. Let say for milk, around 75-80% of milk in Indonesia is imported.

From the latest data that I have, the local production is only 13%...

The number of human population now is around 7,5 billion people, and it will be 9 billion in 2050. With this growth, we’ll be fighting for food. If we don’t put special attention to this food security, we’ll only be market for low quality products with steep price.

I have to admit the milk culture in Indonesia is relatively low, perhaps the climate is not very suitable for milk farm. But not only milk, even for products such as rice and other things, we’re still depending on imported goods. The industry is not supported by policies that help us to increase productivity, as a result the price escalating, we have no subsidy. On the other hand, all big countries have strong agro sector, such as America, Australia, and countries in Europe. It’s as if we’re confused between agriculture and industrialization. When we talk about habit, our youths are drinking milk, aren’t we?

Yes, but which sort of milk?

From the condensed milk which is basically sugar, to the powder milk which is by product from other countries. We call full cream as whole milk, other countries took the most expensive part, turn it into butter, when they still have little fat leftover, we know it as low-fat milk, when it has no fat left, it’s skim milk. Just look at the nutrition fact, you’ll see maltodextrin, vegetable oil, which are not part of natural milk.

That’s the genius of marketing people. They always say that milk make you fat. It’s a challenge for us, especially for women customers who tend to blame milk for causing weight gain. I always say that full cream milk only has 3,4-4% fat content, meanwhile, when you eat fried food, how much is the fat content? I always say, it’s a very good marketing! Now we have more back to whole food movements going on. Our product is the natural whole milk, that’s perfectly designed by nature. People are beginning to realize that the culprit is actually sugar.

Who’s your competitors?

There are only 2 dairy companies which have their own farm. There are other producers which collect the milk from private farms. We understand that doing agro business in Indonesia is very difficult, but basically, GGF are farmers, we always concerned about food security. We tried to farm milk since 2015 in low land, therefore, we need to control the temperature by using some sort of indoor green house with exhausts.

I understand the difficulties of raising the cows, so it’s best to maintain the freshness of the milk, not damage it, most of the production processes are actually doing harm to the milk. People think fresh milk is fishy, but the smell came from wrong handlings. Aside from maintaining the freshness, I want everyone to know that fresh milk tastes good, so you don’t need any modifications such as sugar addition. Sugar causes addiction, now you know why most Indonesians really love sweet.

What we actually do is the pasteurization process, so, in Hometown milk, we have only one single ingredient, the milk itself. If somebody mention fresh milk, they refer to pasteurized milk. Of course there’s a consequence for the freshness” shorter shelf-life. But we want to offer alternative among the very saturated market of low quality milk, especially those who rely heavily on powder and sweetener.

Please explain Hometown’s positioning.

We produce one milk for the whole family. If children, dad, mom, to grandpa and grandma used to have their own milk, now they can return to the natural product with Hometown’s milk. I believe everything’s that is designed by nature is good. In milk with calcium for example, you need to question, is that natural calcium, or is it chemicals?

How were the people’s reactions to your product?

Actually, the first group who loved our milk is foreigners, or those who spent years studying abroad. The majority of the comments are similar, “this milk tastes like in my hometown”. So, milk is supposed to taste that way. Our biggest markets are retail, corporation, and then coffee shops.

Actually, I know Hometown from coffee communities.

It’s a unique market, we have our own challenge. Our production capacity is not that big, but the thing is, we have warm welcome in premium coffee shops market, for those who want more pronounced coffee taste, instead of milk. In addition, coffee aficionados are well known for their high appreciation behind the production process, I can safely say that we share similar values. In the beginning, it was quite difficult to penetrate to coffee shops, because local fresh milk already stigmatized as inconsistent. The first one who believes in our product is actually foreign roasters, after that, they introduce us to the coffee shops that they know.

Our first customers are One Fifteenth and Ombe. Ombe is quite unique, because Mr. Jason (Ombe’s owner) is a prominent figure in coffee communities. He said that he didn’t mind inconsistencies, he could manage it, the most important thing is the quality of the milk. When the owner said it, of course the baristas will follow. Perhaps because we are a small company, we’re more willing to listen and more flexible in term of delivering the products, etc. We always want to sell milk with heart.

Your product is pure milk, I assume it has more intense milky taste, but how come coffee people said the milk doesn’t dominate the coffee?

I don’t know the science behind it. However, they admit our milk can make smoother coffee taste, but it doesn’t make it too milky. If you drink the milk as it is, many people said that our milk is very fresh, with clean aftertaste; you don’t need to drink water after that. Actually, Hometown is also loved by children, they can drink 2 litre of milk rightaway because according to them, the milk doesn’t cause nausea, it also has vanilla hint, even though we don’t put anything in it.

Ironically, the one that’s recommended for kids is the formula milk….

Yes, but the habit’s starting to change. When we launched our product, I assumed kids wont like it, as we only have 1 variant, meanwhile the competitors are offering wide range of product’s variants.

I’m very passionate in introducing access to good nutrition for kids and families, the truth of milk. I was a bit rebellion actually, because to me, when someone produce milk with flavorings, it means the quality of the food is not too good, as it has to be covered by other flavors. In the future, we might introduce other variants, but everything will be based on high quality fresh milk.

Why does the shelf-life of the milk is very short?

Because pasteurized milk can only last 2 weeks, it’s the same everywhere else. After production and transportation process, the shelf life of the milk should be around 7 days. If you see “fresh milk” that can last for 1-2 months, it’s actually Extended Shelf Life (ESL). The quality of this ESL milk is closer to UHT. The pasteurization process is conducted in 75o C to it kan kill bad microorganism while maintaining the good probiotics alive. In UHT and powder milk, the probiotic is completely absent.

What will happen when you drink the milk past expiration date?

I often drink 21 days milk. Actually the milk quality is fine as long as the taste is not sour. On the other hand, if before 7 days the taste becomes sour, you shouldn’t consume it. Perhaps there’s misconduct in transportation or chiller in the storage, but we always commit, whenever we have complaint from customer, we’ll replace the milk. We’re thankful when customers realized it and willing to talk to us. Actually, most customers don’t fuss about the short shelf life, as long the product doesn’t have any preservatives in it, they are willing to walk the extra miles and take the risk for quality.

Other dairy companies usually create other products such as yoghurt to avoid waste from short shelf life. What about Hometown?

If it became sour, it will be returned to us. In the beginning, we have quite many returned milk, but it became less along the way. In addition to the improvement of the management, customers became more educated and realized that fresh milk actually has shorter shelf life, so they try to finish the product faster, as a result, we have higher turnover in stores.

What’s your plan for Hometown’s future?

At the moment we’re steadily expanding while observing market situation. Now have our products in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Malang, and Bali. In the future, we will focus in Central Java and Palembang.